Increase in Wild Turkey Hunting Permits to be Proposed

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The biggest increase in wild turkey hunting permits ever proposed in Utah will be recommended by Division of Wildlife Resources biologists at public meetings in September.

People are encouraged to attend the meetings and provide their input and suggestions. Citizens representing Utah's five Regional Advisory Councils will take the public input received to the Utah Wildlife Board when it meets Oct. 7 in Salt Lake City to approve Utah's 2005 Wild Turkey Proclamation.

Meeting dates, times and locations are as follows:

Northeastern Region
Sept. 13, 7 p.m.
Vernal City Office
447 E. Main St., Vernal

Southeastern Region
Sept. 14, 6:30 p.m.
John Wesley Powell Museum
885 E. Main St., Green River

Southern Region
Sept. 15, 7 p.m.
Beaver High School
195 E. Center St., Beaver

Central Region
Sept. 21, 6:30 p.m.
Department of Natural Resources
1594 W. North Temple. Salt Lake City

Northern Region
Sept. 22, 6 p.m.
Brigham City Community Center
24 N. 300 W., Brigham City

Permit Increase:

Division of Wildlife Resources biologists will recommend a 58 percent increase in the number of public wild turkey permits available for hunts in spring 2005.

Under DWR recommendations, a total of 1,306 Rio Grande permits would be available next spring, compared to 733 in 2004. A total of 501 Merriam's permits would also be available, compared to 410 this past spring.

There are two major reasons for the proposed increases. The first is the weather and aggressive efforts by the DWR, the National Wild Turkey Federation and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife to increase Utah's wild turkey populations.

"The weather this year has been very favorable for wild turkeys," said Dean Mitchell, the DWR's upland game coordinator. "This past winter was closer to normal but fairly mild through most of the state, and very few turkeys were lost. Since then, we've received good rainfall that has provided the food and nesting cover the birds need. Our biologists in the field have reported seeing good numbers of young turkeys in the population this summer."

Mitchell says the rain has also provided habitat and cover that the birds will need this winter. "Barring a really severe winter, there should be good numbers of wild turkeys when the hunting seasons open next spring," he said.

Aggressive efforts to bring more wild turkeys into Utah, and move birds already in Utah to new areas of the state, have also helped Utah's turkey populations grow. This past winter, a total of 711 Rio Grande wild turkeys were brought into Utah from Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas. In addition, 531 Rio Grande's and 139 Merriam's were moved within Utah. Most of these turkeys were moved into new areas.

The second major reason for the proposed permit increase is a better understanding about wild turkeys in Utah. "Less than 10 years ago, we didn't have many wild turkeys in the state. Since then, we've learned a lot about wild turkey biology and how they adapt to Utah's habitats and climatic conditions. As a result, we're more comfortable now allowing additional turkeys to be taken," Mitchell said.

While DWR biologists are comfortable with higher permit numbers, they want to ensure that hunting seasons don't interfere with spring turkey breeding activities. To do that, they're recommending a later starting date for many hunts. For example, most Rio Grande hunts will start at least one week later than past years. "If our permit recommendations are approved, we'll be putting a lot more hunters in the field," Mitchell said. "We want to make sure that wild turkey hens have been bred and are on their nests before hunters start taking males out of the flocks."

The DWR is also recommending standardized season dates across the state and a change to the definition of a legal turkey. "Standardized season dates will provide more consistency and will be less confusing for hunters," Mitchell said. "Changing the definition of a legal turkey, from a 'male' turkey to a 'bearded' turkey, will provide hunters with turkey physical characteristic they can use to determine if a bird can be harvested or not."

For more information about the upcoming meetings, call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office or the DWR's Salt Lake City office at (801) 538-4700.